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Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior is horrible

February 17, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
Well, I guess the critics got something right. "Criminal Minds:Suspect Behavior" really IS toxic waste. I felt like I needed a shower after watching the show that debuted at 9 p.m. Wednesday night on CBS.

On one level, the show is a paint-by-numbers spin-off of the veteran drama "Criminal Minds," which airs before it. The newbie is about a special case squad with more maneuverability than the one on the mother ship, with a lead agent called Sam Cooper (Forest Whitaker) who reports only to the director. This apparently means their superiors and fellow law enforcement officers are more likely to look the other way when the agents themselves commit crimes. One character is John "Prophet" Sims (Michael Kelly) an agent who served prison time for killing a child molester. For some unknown reason this felon managed to pass all the FBI's background checks and the scrutiny of a review board, though the last time I checked a criminal record disqualifies people in the real world from being FBI agents.

Looking for two little girls who had been abducted, the Prophet roughed up a suspect on the state's sex offender list, a guy who actually turned out to be innocent of this particular kidnapping. Strangely enough, the suspect is leading a story group at the local library, also unrealistic in this day and age when these folks are banned from working with children as a condition of their parole. The Prophet's fellow agents told him he was a little too rough but they winked and looked the other way. At the end, after our hero tries unsuccessfully to get the kidnapper to turn himself in and lies through his teeth that he thinks redemption is possible, the Prophet is promoted to full agent. What a guy.

Also incredibly unrealistic is the way the show can call on computer gurus to magically produce suspects and background histories with just a few clicks of the keyboard. How else to explain how the team miraculously solves the abductions of Ayeesha, an 8-year-old black girl from a poor neighborhood, only after Samantha, an 8-year-old blonde, white girl, is abducted from the suburbs? After finding the bodies of the first two victims and reviewing the autopsy results, the team concludes that the abductor is white, since a black driver would have been recognized in the white girl's neighborhood, and that he must be a white man who had lost his own black daughter. Samantha was abducted only because Ayeesha's best friend is a white girl and the abductor wanted to provide her with a playmate. So far, this is a far-fetched but plausible enough profile. But then the computer guru manages to unearth a list of white men with missing black daughters and a criminal record within minutes. This is so fantastical that it borders on the criminally deluded.

The show does pay lip service to the injustice of "missing white woman syndrome," which means that the abduction of the rich, white girl receives far more press attention and police concern than the abduction of the black girls. Ayeesha's mother had to lie to police that she had information about the white girl's abduction to get the FBI to pay attention to her own daughter's case. Beth Griffith, the gruff agent played by Janeane Garofalo, comments how disturbing it is that the black girl would never have been found if the white girl hadn't been abducted as well. But even that injustice is dismissed by Whitaker's lead agent with a platitude about how the black and the white girl each needed the other to be found.

The final scene shows Ayeesha and Samantha running into the arms of their parents, both sobbing loudly and both probably ruined for life. Exploiting the pain and terror of women and children is another thing this misogynistic show does just like the original.

Unfortunately, it will probably be a hit.


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